Render to Caesar

The Coin

With the American Mid-Term Elections only a few days away, the banter back and forth is starting to ramp up.  It’s crazy how many people must be swayed by these last-minute ads that politicians believe it’s valuable to make one last push.  I for one am ready for this to be over. Nearly $6billion US will be spent on this election. That’s some kind of CRAZY money.  And all for what?  For someone to get a job?  GEEZ!!!

It’s always interesting in elections to hear people of faith try to defend their positions.  Democratic Liberal Christians defend the care for the poor Jesus, and Republican Conservatives hang their hat on Abortion and Gay Marriage.  You have to admit, it’s pretty amusing when you hear these people talk like God is only on their side, and He has destined their team to win for the sake of the WORLD!!!

In my experience, government can help, but there’s always a limit to what government can do.   And I know grassroots organizations can help, but they too find the end of their efforts.  So who is “right”?  (I guess that’s why our founders set up the system here in America the way they did.  Let’s just battle it out and find out a middle ground.)

In any event, I was trying to explain this election cycle to a Palestinian friend of mine the other day.  How amusing is that?  He looked at me crossways when I tried to explain the balance of power, the threes branches of government, and the terms politicians can serve.  This lead us to an interesting discussion.

He asked me, “Why do you vote?  It seems like your vote is a small drop of water in a big ocean.  Do you really think it matters?”

“Well, you know, Jesus says to ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ and so I suppose I just do my civic duty to make sure every area of my life is consistent with my faith.” I responded

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” His eyes got wide.  “That’s NOT at all what Jesus was saying.” to which I felt a little embarrassed having a seminary degree and all.

“Mark 12 is not about being compliant to a government system.  Let’s read it together.”  And he pulled out his phone, touched the Bible App, and we were instantly in deep discussion over what Jesus thought about government systems.

The Pharisees asked:

Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”  They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

“Jesus wasn’t saying go be a part of the oppressive government system.  He asked the pharisee to bring him a coin.  The economic system of the pharisee was exclusively Jewish.  In fact, they were forbidden to carry around Roman coins.  So instead of them trying to trick Jesus, He tricked them.  The very fact they had a Roman coin with them showed they were living in two worlds.  They were pious in the Jewish world, but careful to go to the Roman world to get rich.  Jesus is saying CHECK YOUR LIFE.  WHO DO YOU SERVE?”

I was astonished.

I never heard that before in my life.
I was always thinking that verse was about a pledge and an obedience to the system of government that God put in place for me to serve.  But actually, I’m called to make sure my heart, my spirit, and my life match the economic systems holistically.

So as you engage with the political banter this next week, just remember; Jesus called us to be sure we’ve checked our heart at the door and asked, “Who do you serve?”  There’s nothing wrong with being involved in politics, but when it becomes your life and your hope for the future, you’ve minimized the power of God in the Universe and your faith…well…Jesus might say, “O ye of little faith.”

So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but be sure to give to God what is God’s.

Let me know what you think

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